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Law > News Hits

Joint venture

Dispensary-like enterprises are players in medical marijuana's legal gray areas

MT photo: Travis R. Wright
Holice P. Wood and John Sinclair are pushing the limit
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Published 8/18/2010

We here at the Hits have been contemplating going to an all-marijuana all-the-time format. When it comes to weed in Michigan, there's more going on than you can shake a joint at.

Since passage of the state's medical marijuana law in 2008, it has become an issue that's simply too big to ignore. Just take a gander at the ads in this rag and it becomes immediately apparent that bud-related business is booming.

But along with all the money being made by grow shops, specialty medical clinics and others, there's also the issue of how municipalities are going to deal with outfits that provide medicinal cannabis to patients.

Metro Times recently wrote about the ACLU taking on cities like Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, which the organization says are taking an illegal approach as they attempt to shut down dispensary-like operations.

We use the term "dispensary-like" because, as far as we can tell, actual dispensaries are clearly illegal under Michigan law. However, falling into a legal gray area — at least until the issue gets sorted out by the courts — are so-called "compassion clubs," where paying members can go to get their medicine if they have obtained their state card.

We bring this up now because News Hits last week stopped by the Trans-Love Energies Compassion Collective that recently opened on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit in the Eastern Market area.

Earlier this year, when this paper published a cover story on the issue ("The big push," March 24), we interviewed, among others, Detroiters John Sinclair and Holice P. Wood about their plans to open a place where prospective patients could obtain help getting certification and then, once they did get their cards, have somewhere to go where they could both buy medicine and hang out with others.

Finding a landlord willing to rent to them proved to be more difficult than expected. Although their full vision has yet to be realized, they are finally open for business and moving forward.

Which raises this important question: What stance is the city of Detroit going to take toward these operations?

Back in March, Wood and Sinclair told us it was their intent to be in the forefront of this movement, and if that meant testing the boundaries of the law, then so be it. For Sinclair, that's nothing new. In 1969, he was sentenced to a decade in prison after being convicted of giving a few joints to an undercover narc. Eventually, he was successful in getting the state's excessively harsh marijuana laws struck down for being unconstitutional.

Now there's this new frontier. A number of cities have established moratoriums on opening what we'll call, for lack of a better word, dispensaries. They are using the time to figure out whether these businesses will be allowed and, if so, how they will be regulated.

But Detroit officials, as far as we can tell, have stuck their head up a particularly dark orifice as they try to ignore an issue that's not going away. We sent an e-mail to members of Mayor Dave Bing's communications team asking what the plan is, but received no response.

Wood, likewise, says he's been trying with no avail to get a meeting with administration officials so that he can get some clarity as to what the city's policy is. As for the office of County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, this is the message we received from her spokeswoman:

"At this time we have not received any cases involving private clubs. If we do get cases, we will follow the law. Everyone acknowledges that there are some gray areas that the law currently does not address. For that reason we cannot make a blanket statement to suit every circumstance. If we do receive cases, they will rise or fall on the specific facts and evidence."

In other words, when it comes to both the county and the city, there is no policy.

"They will not take a stand," says Wood, a guy who, despite the normally calming influence of weed, is anything but a shrinking violet.

But refusal to deal with reality is a tactic that only works so long. Sooner or later a policy will have to be established. It is only a matter of time.

Until then, the Trans-Love Energies Compassion Collective is open for business. You can contact them at 313-759-8907, or find them on the Web at transloveenergies313.com.

Tell 'em News Hits sent ya.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com.

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